Travel Postcard: 8 hours, 32 minutes in Kaesong, North Korea
By Jon Herskovitz
KAESONG, North Korea (Reuters Life!) - Hermit North Korea allows a tiny backdoor entry for tourists where almost anyone who pays 188,000 South Korean won ($141) can enter what is probably the world's most closed state.
The South's Hyundai Asan offers one-day trips to Kaesong, just north of the heavily armed border and about 70 km (45 miles) northwest of Seoul, where visitors can see ancient Korean history and take a glance at life in Asia's only communist dynasty.
The tour runs under a strict set of don'ts that are spelled out before crossing the heavily armed border such as no newspapers, no religious ceremonies, no picture taking unless in an approved spot and no talking to ordinary North Koreans.
And if you want to go, be quick. This week North Korea, saying it had had enough of the South's conservative government, said it would close the border from next month.
8:00 a.m. or when the North Korean border guards give permission - Buses roll out from a staging area on South Korea's side of the 4-km (2.5-mile) wide Demilitarized Zone that has divided the peninsula since 1953. The convoy of buses pass a hill strewn with landmines, an idle train station that one day may take passengers to the North's capital Pyongyang and past razor-wire fencing.
The actual border crossing from South to North Korea is probably the most uneventful part of the trip. There is no clear marking, just a couple of signs saying the bus has left one city and entered another.
8:10 a.m. - Some ten minutes later, the buses stop at immigration in North Korea, housed in a sleek building constructed by the South. A music loop plays a song that repeatedly intones: "Very glad to see you."
Visitors receive a stamp in their temporary visa, which must be displayed in a plastic envelope hung around the neck during the visit. It includes the list of don'ts. Continued...